Dan Davis hasn't coached basketball in his home county since 2007, but he still can be spotted in the winter at Gwinnett County high school gyms.
The Auburn-Montgomery head women's basketball coach has made recruiting Gwinnett a priority since he moved to the college level, and local players have played a big role for most of his AUM teams. His ties in Gwinnett are deep both as a coach and as a player at South Gwinnett, so he frequents his old neighborhood even though his home is now in Alabama.
"I just respect the coaches in Gwinnett County so much, they're great people," said Davis, in his sixth season at AUM and fifth as head women's coach. "So you know the kids are coming from great programs. And any kid we've had from Gwinnett has done well. They're going to do well academically, they're going to transition well and they're going to come in and compete."
Davis' current roster has three Gwinnett area players who have fueled the team's 11-3 start entering this weekend's games.
Brookwood grad Jazmine Jackson is one of the team's top guards, scoring in double figures the past two games. She had 18 points last weekend in a championship-game loss at the Ave Maria Classic in Florida.
Fellow sophomore Tina Odume, a South grad, is a key reserve on the frontline, while George Walton product Marren Schwartz, from Dacula, is a starter at post for the NAIA program, ranked 20th nationally.
AUM has bounced back from a 14-16 record in 2011-12 that featured a number of close losses. Those scores have flipped back in Davis' favor thus far.
"The No. 1 thing that's helped this season is the continuity we have," Davis said. "I have two seniors who have been with me the whole time here. They were in my first signing class. The other players we've returned have been in the program two, three years. They're invested in the program. My assistant coach played for me here, so she knows the program.
"Our leadership overall is great and we've got depth, quality depth."
Davis said the improvements include him, too.
While he's been successful --he took his first AUM team to nationals and has a 74-59 career record --he continues to learn by the day.
It's a different challenge from his high school coaching days, which began as a South boys assistant. He also was Grayson's head boys coach and Providence Christian's head girls coach and athletic director prior to taking a job at AUM, where he played four seasons of college basketball.
"Being a college coach has taught me a lot," Davis said. "I thought I was pretty detail-oriented (in high school coaching), but the scouting and the preparation is at another level in college. You can't make as many mistakes. When I was at Providence and we played Wesleyan or Buford, because of the talent level difference, we weren't going to beat them. But in college, there's a thin line with talent difference. We've all got good, scholarship players.
"It comes down to doing those little things and not doing the things that beat you."
Davis' current team has succeeded in those areas, which has led to the strong start.
The schedule hasn't been easy, either. Of the first 14 games on the schedule, 11 were on the road. But the Warhawks are unbeaten in the Southern States Athletic Conference's West Division and defeated powerhouse Lee University, ranked sixth nationally, for just the fifth time in the last 18 seasons.
His players also have excelled off the basketball court, with a team GPA of 3.0 or higher in seven of the past nine semesters.
Norcross grad Tiffany Clarke had 24 points and 11 rebounds last weekend, powering Vanderbilt to a 74-56 win over Southern California. It was Clarke's third double-double in a four-game span. ... Brookwood's Katie Mallow had 13 points and made 3 of 4 3-pointers in Appalachian State's narrow loss to West Virginia. ... Georgia State's Kayla Nolan, a Duluth grad, had 13 points and 11 rebounds in a narrow loss to Toledo.FOOTBALL
DuBose in all-star game
Norcross grad Dion DuBose, who recently finished his Georgia Southern career, was selected for the upcoming USA Freedom Bowl, a postseason showcase for college seniors.
The bowl week is Jan. 18-21 in Virginia Beach.
DuBose, returning from a scary knee injury that cost him more than a year, had 50 tackles (11 for losses) and 6.5 sacks this past season. He was a first-team All-Southern Conference selection by the league's coaches as a senior, and also was a third-team College Sports Madness All-American.
Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.